Donald Trump is convicted of a felony. Here’s how that affects the 2024 presidential race

Here’s what you should know about Donald Trump’s conviction in his hush money trial

NEW YORK: Donald Trump’s 34-count conviction marks the end of the former president’s historic money laundering trial, but the battle for the case is far from over.
Now comes a conviction and the possibility of a prison sentence. A lengthy appeals process. And all the while, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee still has three more criminal cases to deal with and a campaign that could see him return to the White House.
A Manhattan jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business records after more than nine hours of deliberations over two days in a case stemming from a hidden payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump angrily denounced the trial as a “disgrace” and told reporters he was an “innocent man.”
Some key findings from the jury’s decision:
Jail time?
The big question now is whether Trump could go to jail. The answer is uncertain. Judge Juan M. Merchan announced the ruling on July 11, just days before Republicans will officially nominate him for president.
The charge of falsifying business records is a Class E felony in New York, the lowest felony in the state. It’s punishable by up to four years in prison, though the sentence would ultimately be up to the judge and there’s no guarantee Trump would be jailed.
It’s unclear to what extent a judge might consider the political and logistical complexities of imprisoning a former president who is vying to regain the White House. Other penalties may include a fine or probation. And it’s possible the judge would allow Trump to avoid serving any sentence until he exhausts his appeals.
The conviction also does not prevent Trump from continuing to campaign. Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who co-chairs the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday that if Trump is convicted and sentenced to house arrest, he will hold virtual rallies and campaign events.
“We’re going to have to play the hand we’re given,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview.
Complaints channels

Once Trump is convicted, he can challenge his conviction in the state court’s appellate division and possibly the nation’s highest court. Trump’s lawyers have already been laying the groundwork for appeals by challenging the charges and verdicts at trial.
The defense accused the judge of bias, citing his daughter’s work at the head of a firm whose clients included President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other Democrats. The judge rejected a defense request to recuse himself from the case, saying he was confident of his “ability to be fair and impartial.”
Trump’s lawyers can also challenge the judge’s ruling limiting the testimony of a potential defense expert witness in the appeal. The defense wanted to call Bradley Smith, a Republican law professor who served on the Federal Election Commission, to refute the prosecution’s claim that the hidden payments constituted campaign finance violations.
But the defense ultimately barred him from testifying after a judge ruled he could provide general background on the FEC but could not explain how federal campaign finance laws apply to the facts of Trump’s case or offer an opinion on whether Trump’s the alleged actions violate these laws. There are often guardrails around expert testimony on legal matters, on the grounds that the judge—not an expert hired by one side or the other—must instruct jurors about the applicable laws.
The defense may also argue that jurors were improperly allowed to hear porn actress Stormy Daniels’ sometimes graphic testimony about her alleged sexual encounter with him in 2006. The defense unsuccessfully sought to be suppressed because of the lurid details prosecutors coaxed from Daniels. Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that Daniels’ description of the power imbalance with the older, more senior Trump was a “rape dog whistle” irrelevant to the charges at hand and “the kind of testimony that makes it impossible to go back.”
Rare defense
The former president’s lawyers called only two witnesses in a rare defense case, including attorney and former federal prosecutor Robert Costello. The defense tried to use Costello to discredit the prosecution’s main witness, Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney-turned-adversary who directly implicated Trump in the hush-money scheme. But the move may have backfired, opening the door for prosecutors to question Costello about an alleged pressure campaign aimed at keeping Cohen loyal to Trump after the FBI raided Cohen’s compound in April 2018.
While Costello bolstered the defense by testifying that Cohen denied to him that Trump knew anything about the $130,000 hush-hush payment to Daniels, Costello had few answers when prosecutor Susan Hoffinger confronted him about the emails that sent to Cohen and in which he repeatedly promised his close ties with Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. In one email, Costello told Cohen, “Sleep well tonight. you have friends in high places,” and relayed that there were “some very positive comments about you from the White House.”
Cohen remained mostly calm on the witness stand under heated cross-examination by the defense, which sought to portray him as a liar with a vendetta against his former boss. The sharp, fearful Costello, on the other hand, insulted the judge — sometimes in full view of the jury — but continued to speak after objections and eye rolls. At one point, after sending the jury out of the room, the judge became angry when he said Costello was looking him down. Merchan then briefly cleared the courtroom of reporters and counted Costello out, warning him that if he dodged again he would be removed from the courtroom and his testimony would be impeached.
Setting the stage for loss
Trump and his campaign also tried to undermine the case before a possible conviction during the week’s confidence projection. He has repeatedly called the entire system “rigged” — a term he used to falsely describe the 2020 election he lost to President Joe Biden.
“Mother Teresa could not overcome these charges,” he said Wednesday, referring to the Catholic nun and saint, as jury deliberations began.
Trump berated the judge, insulted Bragg and complained about members of the prosecution. He tried to portray the case as nothing more than a politically motivated witch hunt.
Trump’s criticism has also extended to decisions that appear to have been made by his own legal team. He complained that the prosecution “didn’t call many key witnesses” – even though his side decided to call only two witnesses.
He also complained about being barred from speaking about aspects of the case under a gag order, but decided not to take the stand. Instead of testifying in the case — and exposing himself to the inherent risks of perjury and cross-examination — Trump has focused on the court of public opinion and the voters who will ultimately decide his fate.
What this means for the election
In a deeply divided America, it’s unclear whether Trump’s once-present status as a convicted felon will have any bearing on the election.
Top strategists in both parties believe Trump is still in a good position to defeat Biden, even though he now faces prison time and three separate criminal cases that remain open. There were immediate signs, at least in the short term, that the guilty verdict helped unify various factions of the Republican Party, as GOP representatives across the political spectrum rallied behind their embattled presumptive presidential nominee and his campaign, which is expected to benefited from a flood of fundraising dollars.
A few polls have been conducted on the likelihood of a conviction, although such hypothetical scenarios are notoriously difficult to predict. A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that only 4 percent of Trump supporters said they would withdraw their support if he were convicted of a crime, though another 16 percent said they would reconsider.

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